Little Richard

Live at the Toronto Peace Festiveal 1969 [Video]

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The Toronto Peace Festival, aka the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival, is most famous as the September 13, 1969, concert at which John Lennon made his first concert appearance as part of the Plastic Ono Band. There were a whole lot of other contemporary artists and early rock & roll acts on the bill, however, and fortunately filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker captured not just Lennon's set, but also Little Richard's. Though it lasts just a little less than half an hour, the performance on this DVD does show the singer at the flamboyant peak of his powers, even if his days as a major hitmaker had passed more than a decade before this show took place. In fact, Richard could have presented this exact same set had it taken place in 1957, as seven of the nine songs were big hits for him back in 1956 and 1957, the other two being covers of "Hound Dog" and "Blueberry Hill." The band grinds out a somewhat, but not too, updated variation on Richard's original '50s arrangements as the gaudily attired vocalist sings, plays piano, prances about, and exhorts the crowd with boundless energy. A few dancers who leap on-stage from the audience add to the "rock & roll as tent revival" atmosphere, but Richard is firmly in command of the proceedings throughout. Inspirational song intro: when kicking off "Tutti Frutti," he urges listeners to sing along, adding, "If you don't know it, sing it anyway!" Maybe it would have been nice to have one or two less familiar tunes in the set list (or anything from his repertoire postdating his initial retirement), and it's too bad the hits he does run through don't include "The Girl Can't Help It." But we're nonetheless fortunate to have this document of the man doing what he does best, lapped up with great enthusiasm by the crowd.

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